The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has once again been deprived of their fundamental religious freedoms and universal civic rights. For the ongoing local body elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made an addition to their guidelines, instructing registration officers and other staff to enter Ahmadi votes separately in the Initial Electoral List. Through instruction number 12, the ECP has mandated that Ahmadi votes will be entered separately in the register under the notation ‘FOR AHMADIS’.
After learning of this instruction, the Ahmadiyya Community has, in a strong protest, announced its disassociation from the 2015 local body elections in Pakistan. The Community has protested and communicated their outrage to the government and the ECP in the form of letters and in formal meetings about the usurpation of their right to vote on the basis of religion. However, the government has not responded positively.
Ahmadis in Pakistan are thereby deprived of their fundamental democratic right to vote. It is strange that Muslim, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians are included in one electoral roll and only Ahmadis have to register in a separate list. Ahmadis can only vote if they accept being non-Muslim and disassociate themselves from their beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The government’s always seeks to appease Islamic fundamentalists and extremists by taking unconstitutional action against the Ahmadiyya Community to show that the government is very much Islamist.
The Ahmadiyya Community was declared non-Muslim in Pakistan in 1974. Furthermore, in 1984, an ordinance was promulgated to criminalize their attempt to pass of as Muslims or engage in Islamic worship or practices, or use Islamic terminology everyday life, to the extent that Ahmadis could not greet anyone using the Islamic salutation of Assalmoálikum, i.e. peace be upon you.
The ECP has specially added a column of religion in the voter registration form, though general elections are held on a joint electorate basis. Ahmadis have to sign a declaration showing their disconnection with the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in order to register themselves as voters. Moreover, only one general voters list was prepared for the joint electorate, but in 2002 and 2008 a separate list was prepared only for Ahmadis, the latter under notification dated 17 January 2007 (No. F1 (6) / 2001 – Cord).
According to this notification, names of all Pakistani citizens, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, or other religious minorities, are entered in one single list, while only Ahmadis are entered in a separate list. Religious hatred and discrimination is thus overt. It is an open attempt to single out and marginalise a particular religious group, the Ahmadis, from the national mainstream, and make them toothless politically.
This discrimination is against the sayings of the Father of the Nation, revered Quad-i-Azam, and contradicts the rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan. Moreover, it is against the spirit of the joint electorate and in clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
General Musharraf in 2002, instead of introducing a Joint Electoral System, required voters to sign a declaration concerning belief about the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet-hood of Muhammad (PBUH) and those who refused to sign the certificate were to be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters as non-Muslims. This form includes a warning that violation will be punished with imprisonment.
These devious and unacceptable procedures have usurped the fundamental civic rights of Ahmadis and for decades now they cannot stand as candidates for any election, national, provincial, or even district. Ahmadis have no representation even in the town councils of their own town Rabwah, where they make up 95 per cent of the population.
The irony is that Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and Pakistan is also a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights, which makes it obligatory for the government to safeguard the fundamental rights of all without any discrimination based on religion, faith, or belief.
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has repeatedly drawn the attention of the world to such flagrant violations of civic rights in Pakistan. Once again, the AHRC urges the international community, NGOs, and civil society to push the Government of Pakistan to respect the fundamentals of democracy and restore the voting rights of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, removing all of the conditions that denigrate their faith and practice.